The Court That Tamed the West: From the Gold Rush to the Tech Boom

Hardcover, 6 x 9, 544 pages,
with over 100 historical
drawings and photographs, index.
ISBN: 9781597142465.


By Richard Cahan, Pia Hinckle, and Jessica Royer Ocken; Appendix by John Briscoe; Foreword by William Alsup

From the gold rush to the Internet boom, the US District Court for the Northern District of California has played a major role in how business is done and life is lived on the Pacific Coast. When California was first admitted to the Union, pioneers were busy prospecting for new fortunes, building towns and cities—and suing each other. San Francisco became the epicenter of a litigious new world being cobbled together from gold dust and sand dunes. Its federal court set precedents, from deciding the fate of Mexican land grants and shanghaied sailors to civil rights for Chinese immigrants. Through the era of Prohibition and the labor movement to World War II and the tumultuous sixties and seventies, the court’s historic rulings have defined the Bay Area’s geography, culture, and commerce.

Sponsored by the Northern District Court’s Historical Society and told by veteran journalists, The Court That Tamed the West presents the region’s history through a new lens, offering insight along with great storytelling.


Photo by Jason Marck

Richard Cahan is the author of twelve books including an acclaimed history of the federal court in Chicago, A Court That Shaped America. He served as the picture editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and is currently an independent scholar at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Pia Hinckle is a San Francisco-based writer and editor. She is publisher of The FruitGuys Almanac, an online healthy living magazine. She was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia Journalism School and has written for a number of publications including Newsweek, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Examiner, Columbia Journalism Review, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jessica Royer Ocken is a writer and editor based in Chicago. She has covered topics from technology to teenagers and fashion to fine arts for publications including the Chicago Tribune and Midwest Home Chicago. She has collaborated on several books and served as writer for the documentary project CITY 2000. She’s currently at work on a series of stories about The Children’s Place, an organization that supports children and families affected by HIV/AIDS.